Gatekeeper Connexin43 Phosphorylation Events Regulate Cardiac Gap Junction Coupling During Stress
Carlson, Alec David
MetadataShow full item record
Rapid and well-orchestrated action potential propagation through the myocardium is essential to each heartbeat. Gap junctions comprising primarily Cx43 reside within the intercalated discs connecting cardiomyocytes, effecting not only direct intercellular electrical coupling, but the localization of other junctional structures and ion channels. Alterations in Cx43 expression occur in essentially all forms of heart disease and is therefore a topic of intense study. Posttranslational modification of Cx43 is understood to impact trafficking, conduction, and stability. Altered Cx43 phosphorylation is well described during pathological remodeling of gap junctions in response to cellular stress. Research has revealed how phosphorylation of specific residues elicit specific effects on Cx43, but the complexity of this process has left much unknown. In particular, the role phosphorylation of a triplet of double serine residues, Ser365, Ser368, and Ser373, plays in GJ function and Cx43/14-3-3 interaction has been called into question. Using an ex vivo whole heart ischemia model we find a decrease in pS368 in mice lacking the ability to phosphorylate S365 and S373 while under stress. In vitro transfection of human induced pluripotent stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes when stressed with PMA were also carried out. These data allow us to piece together the exquisite interplay of gatekeeper phosphorylation events upstream of channel closure, altered protein-protein interactions, and gap junction internalization and degradation. It is hoped that our increasing understanding of this important area of gap junction biology will facilitate better understanding of arrhythmogenesis, and potential therapeutic strategies to restore or preserve normal electrical coupling in diseased hearts.
General Audience Abstract
The heart, an electrically active organ, relies on the propagation of an electrical signal throughout its entirety in order to produce a healthy heartbeat. In order to do so, the heart uses specialized muscle cells known as cardiomyocytes which can not only contract but pass along chemical signals to the cardiomyocyte next in line to signal it to contract as well. The passage of signals occurs through protein units called gap junctions and are made predominantly of Cx43 proteins in the heart. Gap junctions look and function like tubes that travel from the inside space of one cell to the other and allow a flow of small molecules to occur; these small molecules, namely ions, are part of the signal needed to initiate contraction in the adjacent cell. Cx43, like many proteins in our bodies, is slightly altered after it is produced through a process known as posttranslational modification. This allows the cell to alter the localization and function of the protein and tailor it for the needs of the cell. Rather than changing the backbone composition of the protein, small chemical groups are attached, and this imparts a change to how the protein interacts with other proteins or its environment. In particular, one form of modification is known as phosphorylation where a phosphate group is attached to the protein at specific locations along its chain. Cx43 too can be phosphorylated, and while under pathological stress, such as a lack of oxygen or infection, cardiomyocytes increase the amount of phosphorylated Cx43 at a site known to cause pathological changes to the function of Cx43. These changes include how well the gap junctions can transmit signals or associate with other proteins and, in the heart, can predispose the development of arrhythmias or unhealthy heartbeats. However, not all phosphorylation is bad and phosphorylation at other locations also occurs during normal healthy functions of the cardiomyocyte can affect how other sites along Cx43 are phosphorylated. The process of one phosphorylated site affecting another is known as the gatekeeper effect and add a new layer to our understanding of how cells use phosphorylated Cx43 to fine tune its effects. Using cells that do not produce their own Cx43 and subsequently giving them the instructions to produce specific forms of mutant Cx43 that can and cannot be phosphorylated at specific sites, we can understand with greater detail of how cardiomyocytes respond to stress and how some of those responses can be pathological. This will allow future research into the creation of therapies that prevent negative Cx43 phosphorylation after illness, potentially avoiding the development of dangerous arrhythmias.
- Masters Theses